Grief is an inevitable thing people experience throughout their lifetime. You can see it in heartbreak, the death of a family member or friend, or literally just any experience in which a person is experiencing a loss. Not many people realize that there are stages of the grieving process. I mean, we do in the way the movie industry might portray it, but no movie can truly portray the real life feeling of loss given that everyone experiences things differently. Some might even say that the five stages of the grieving process are outdated, but we’ll leave that up to your own discretion. After all, everyone has their own opinion.
The first stage of grieving has to do with denial. Most, if not all, people are in disbelief that the loss they are experiencing is not real. For example, when my dog passed away a couple years ago, I totally forgot she was dead and was expecting to see her next to me the next day just for me to realize that she was gone for good. It was not an easy feeling to deal with, but it is something everyone has to deal with unfortunately.
The second stage deals with the anger of having lost a person, place, or thing. This part of the process is when you are the most snappy amongst your peers (Guttman, 2020). It could be due to the fact that you are just frustrated with having to deal with the loss in the first place. Thousands of people have experienced loss during the pandemic, and their anger might be seen through their frustration with how the government is handling such a crisis.
The third stage is where people start to bargain with themselves about their loss. According to Guttman (2020), this stage is where people start to think about the things they could have done differently to avoid the loss. For example, when I was going through my most recent breakup, I was thinking of all of the different things I could have said or done so that my ex-boyfriend would not have broken up with me. This stage leads to depression because you realize there’s nothing you could have done differently because the loss you are experiencing already happened, and you can’t change the past.
This part of the grieving process has to be the worst stage to experience. No one likes to be depressed, but it’s a phase you have to experience before things start to get a little better. This is the part of the grieving process where you start to feel all of the icky feelings you had been dreading to feel the whole time. You’re in a situation where you have lost something near and dear to you, and there’s nothing you can do to bring that feeling of familiarity with said thing. Once you move past this stage though, things really do start to look up. Dealing with this stage is no easy feat because everyone experiences things differently. Some people could struggle moving past this stage, some might find it to be easy, and some never move past this stage at all.
The final stage deals with acceptance. Accepting that there’s nothing you could have done to change the outcome, accepting that you will be okay and move on from this one day. This is not a stage everyone can get to because of how depression for losing a loved one can last an entire lifetime for some. However, when people do reach this stage, life starts to feel just a little bit better. Obviously, not the same in comparison with still having your past loved one still here with you, but at least at this point you’re starting to live your life again the best way you can.
And those are all of the stages of grieving. Although I put these stages in a particular order, it is important to note that these stages can happen in different orders as well. People work in mysterious ways, and it would be a crime to assume that these stages of grief happen in the same order every time.
What do you think? Are these outdated, or do you think they are accurate for the most part? Let us know!
Guttman, J. (2020, April 8). Understanding the Stages of Grief and Facing Tragic News. Psychology Today.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sustainable-life-satisfaction/202004/understanding-the-stages-grief-and-facing-tragic-news
Everyone experiences grief. At some point in everyone’s life, there will be at least one moment where we experience grief and loss. How we cope with it is personal and non-linear. Grief can manifest in many different behaviors and emotions ranging from anger to detachment. Everyone grieves differently, but there are commonalities in the stages of grief. We go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Not everyone, however, will experience all of them and in that same order. You can begin coping in the anger or bargaining stage, and may remain in one stage longer than the others. This is acceptable because there’s no time limit or schedule that we must follow when coping with grief and loss.
Within the scope of the pandemic, grief has been an area of focus for many researchers. Comparisons were taken before and after the pandemic on whether or not grief is prolonged and more severe. Grief researchers surveyed 1600 bereaved adults who had experienced loss either before or during the pandemic. They found that there were no significant differences in grief levels, but those with the most recent losses reported the highest levels of grief. What the data
didn’t tell us, however, is how different factors can contribute to grief reactions. Factors such as social isolation, the unexpectedness of the death, religious restrictions, the inability of survivors to make sense of the loss, and a lack of institutional and informational support for families all play a role in how individuals grieve. Social isolation protocols limit both available social support and meaningful engagement of family members in end-of-life care. Places of worship are shuttered during the pandemic, marginalized communities are disproportionally represented in mortality statistics, and protocols for family engagement are restricted by care facilities and hospitals seeking to protect from contagion (Eisma & Tamminga, 2020). Therefore, the psychological toll of grief seems to be more severe in the context of death resulting from the pandemic.
The pandemic has disproportionately affected older adults in many ways. They’re impacted not only through a greater risk of illness and death, but also by intensifying the underlying distress related to aging and mortality. Many are grieving the loss of independence, social connectedness, financial security, and access to basic necessities (Ishikawa, 2020). In an outpatient psychiatry clinic, older patients express their fears about mortality, loneliness, and untreated chronic pain. And because surgery isn’t an option for many, the only help they could turn to is mental health care. It’s important for facilities to offer support and social connectedness while also assessing the risks. Mindfulness and exercise have also been found to help maintain physical health and boosting moods.
The pandemic isn’t the only natural disaster to cause severe grief and loss. After a tsunami hit Sri Lanka in 2004, 38 survivors were interviewed in-depth to assess how they responded and coped with their grief. Because most natural disasters occur in countries that have fewer resources to respond to disaster, most survivors have to rely on their own coping resources and draw from what support remains within the family, social networks, and the community to manage and deal with their losses and emotional distress. The survivors emphasized the importance of extended supportive networks, religious faith and practices, and cultural traditions in facilitating recovery and sustaining emotional well-being. Government and external aid responses that promoted these were particularly valued by participants. These findings suggest that long-term mental health care following a disaster should be promoted through the community and government programs
(Ekanayake et al., 2013).
While there are many ways to cope, there seem to be common themes within these methods. The two biggest being 1) having strong social support from either family, friends, or the community and 2) participating in spiritual or cultural customs and traditions. It’s best to surround yourself with people who care about you and to communicate how you’re feeling with them. Also, to be able to come to terms with mortality through spiritual practice can help us find closure and peace. It can help remind us that our loved ones are always with us.
Ishikawa, R. Z. (2020). I may never see the ocean again: Loss and grief among older adults
during the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy,12(S1), S85-S86. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tra0000695
For many, the holidays bring joy, cheer, and happiness. However, for others, the holidays can bring about grief and sorrow from the loss of a loved one. Whether it be from COVID or other causes, grief during the holidays can add additional stress to individual mental health. Although this holiday season may bring about painful reminders of the absence of loved ones, it, at the same time, can include comforting rituals where we connect with family and friends, focusing on good memories and trying to recapture our sense of joy. If you are mourning the loss of loved ones this season, here are some important things to keep in mind.
Trust in the grief process
Grief is the process by which you heal. Experiencing the pain rather than escaping from it can make you feel better in the long run. So while it may be tempting to pretend the holidays don't exist or to numb the pain with alcohol, temporarily avoiding the pain only prolongs the anguish. Eventually, the holidays will get easier, but only if you allow yourself to experience the grief of going through them without your loved one.
Allow your emotions
The holidays can bring about a wide range of emotions. You might feel joy, guilt, and sadness all within a few minutes. Allow yourself to feel those emotions without judging yourself or thinking you should be happy or you shouldn't be laughing.
Honor your memories
Create a special way to memorialize the person you've lost. Whether you decide to light a candle every night or eat your loved one's favorite food, honoring your loved one can serve as a tangible reminder that although your loved one is gone, the love never dies.
Do something kind
Even when you're in the midst of grief, you still have something to offer the world. Performing a few acts of kindness can be really good for a grieving person's spirit. Donate gifts to families in need, serve meals at a soup kitchen, or volunteer to help people at a nursing home make holiday crafts if you're up for it.
Ask for help
Don't be afraid to ask for help when you're struggling with the holidays. Reminding loved ones that you're having a rough time may be enough, but you also may want to reach out for more support. Look for support groups or contact a professional counselor to help you deal with your grief in a healthy manner.
Chrissy Teigen is an example of someone who has opened up about her grief during the holidays. She has stated that she’s been in a “grief depression hole” due to her recent loss. The way she copes is by taking a break from social media and surrounding herself with her loved ones. In one article, she emphasizes the importance of making memories with loved ones that are still with us. It’s true, because it’s not helpful for anyone when you close yourself off to people who care. It’s important that we appreciate every day and never take anything for granted. We must always express our love to friends and family and remind them that they’re important.
Berliner, T. (2019). How to cope with grief during the holidays. The Psychology Group. Retrieved from https://thepsychologygroup.com/how-to-cope-with-grief-during-the-holidays/
Lewis, K.R. (2019). Coping with grief during the holidays. Experience Life. Retrieved from https://experiencelife.com/article/coping-with-grief-during-the-holidays/